Food, Mood & Body Shape

Fat is an emotional issue

In 1978 ‘Fat is a feminist issue‘ written by Susie Orbach. It encouraged women to look at their bodies and why they needed to look a certain way. This was especially important when women were renegotiating their position in western society and challenged the view that men had of the female form. Well, fat has moved on since then, or should I say has grown since then and has become an ever-bigger issue.

The western world is getting fatter. Britain is now the fattest country in Europe, but what does that mean, why is it happening? There are several ways of looking at this.

Fat forms a protective layer. Sometime people hide emotionally behind a layer of fat. There are three types of fat white, yellow and brown. Brown fat is dense, highly insulative and thin. This is found in those that are more athletic where they are lean, yet their bodies retain heat as well as bigger people.

Yellow fat is the halfway house between the white and brown and appears in most emotionally well balanced people. It is not as dense as the lean brown fat and gives a body a softer look and rounded curves.

White fat is more like loft insulation you need a lot of it to have its effect. Inches of soft white fat have the same insulative properties of the thinner yellow and brown fats. White fat develops from overeating and lack of exercise and is often related to emotional protection. It is as though the person is hiding behind the layer of fat.

I have often worked with women who feel that when they are big men leave them alone and when they are slim they get too much unwanted attention. But there is another issue that effects both men and women, it is the relationship between carbohydrates and depression.

Fat food and serotonin
In the podcast I mentioned the book, ‘Food and Mood’. The realisation that food effects how we feel and think has become current science. The bit that interests me is the carbohydrate cycle. We now know that when we eat comfort foods our brain secretes serotonin the happy hormone of wellbeing.

The carb cycle is when someone is feeling down and self medicates with carbs to make themselves feel better. Their subsequent weight gain makes them feel bad so they eat more carbs to feel better again and so the cycle goes on.

When I look at it this way I suspect that what were seeing is not simply that Britain is the fattest country in Europe but that it is the most depressed country in Europe. I am not sure what this says about the USA and their weight gain.

Other ways to get serotonin
Ok, so if we have a natural drive towards maintaining a level of serotonin in our brains that makes us feel good and creates our sense of wellbeing how else can we do it apart from comfort food?

Well, serotonin will be produced in response to pain which is the basis of self harming behaviours that lead to a sense of relief or well being, not recommended. Humour does the trick when you laugh so much that your face hurts. Sensitive and sensual sex does it. Though, top of the list is exercise. When you heart rate increases for about twenty minutes your brain responds by releasing the endorphins that make you feel really good and happy.

For me exercise is running. It takes about two kilometres for my brain to start to release it and then after twenty minutes it begins to flow. For other exercise may be keep fit, Zumba, gym sessions, energetic yoga, power walking, running up and down the stairs. Whatever it is, twenty minutes does the trick.

You need muscle to burn fat
Sometimes, when you have invested a lot in building your fat bank it can be difficult to shift it. This is because you need to be able to move muscle to burn the fat. This may mean doing muscle building exercises to develop the strength needed to then create an exercise regime that is able to deal with the fat. This can be a longer term issue that requires consistent and persistent determination to create success.

There is another issue worth looking at when considering your fat bank, it is Vitamin D. There is a bit of an argument taking place in the scientific world as to whether Vit D is a hormone or a vitamin. It doesn’t really matter, what is important is the effect Vit D deficiency can have on our systems. There are many disease and illness situations for which Vit D deficiency is the precursor. It is the psychological bit that interests me.

Vitamin D is the precursor of serotonin production in the brain. Vit D is produced in the skin in response to sunlight. This explains how seasonal affected Disorder SAD comes about. As the sunlight diminishes the level of serotonin drops as the level of Vitamin D drops. Our response in the winter is to eat more, generally carbs, that boost our serotonin and take us through the dark months until we get back to the light in the spring.

There appears to be a correlation between our collective paranoia about skin cancer, the increase in the use of sun creams, that can reduce the production of Vit D by over 90%, and the increase in weight of the British population. I could be bonkers but it would seem to me that if we allow ourselves more exposure to sunlight we might reduce our craving for carbs and lose some weight in the process.

Anyway, in considering your fat it starts with what you are eating and why you are eating it, whether you are exercising, if you are having some fun and maybe if you are getting enough sunlight on your skin.

All positive routes lead us towards happiness

Be happy

Sean x

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